Men's Basketball Roundup - Jan. 5


Tuesday night continued to prove that wins are not easy to come by this season in the BIG EAST. Three conference games were played on Tuesday night and all three were decided in the final minute. Pittsburgh and West Virginia tried to reverse the trend of the early season conference games, as both teams won on the road. So far, BIG EAST teams are 13-4 at home in conference play.
No. 14/15 Notre Dame (13-2, 2-1 BIG EAST) held off No. 8/9 Connecticut (11-2, 1-2 BIG EAST) 73-70 at home Tuesday. The Irish improved to 10-0 at home this season thanks to 21 points from Ben Hansbrough. Hansbrough also got the job done on the defensive end, limiting the nation's leading scorer, Kemba Walker, to 19 points on 8-of-23 shooting. Notre Dame led by as many as 11 in the second half, but the Huskies continued to chip-away at the lead, and trailed by just two points with under 20 seconds remaining. Tim Abromaitis, who had 19 in the game for the Irish, hit 1-of-2 from the free throw line to push the lead to three. Walker then missed on a game-tying 3-point attempt.
After Tyrone Nash buried a pair of free throws for Notre Dame to put the home team up five, Shabazz Napier responded with two free throws of his own for UConn to cut the deficit back to three points. Napier finished with 18 points and five assists. Abromaitis missed two free throws with 10.6 seconds left, but Napier missed a long 3-point attempt that would have tied the game with two seconds left to give Notre Dame the win.
No. 5/5 Pittsburgh (14-1, 2-0 BIG EAST) escaped with an 83-79 road win at Providence (11-5, 0-3 BIG EAST). The Panthers shot the lights out in the first half, connecting on 8-of-14 from downtown and 13-of-25 from the field to build a 38-31 advantage. Gilbert Brown led the offensive output, going 5-of-6 from 3-point range (all in the first half) and 7-of-8 from the field. Brown's only miss came on a three at the buzzer of the first half, as he finished with 10 points to lead four Panthers in double figures.
Providence trailed by as many as 10 points in the second half, but made a ferocious comeback, including grabbing a four-point lead with 1:30 remaining following a Marshon Brooks fade-away three. Brooks led all scorers with 28 points, notching his 10th-straight 20-plus point game. Brooks' 3 put PC up 76-72. Pitt then got a layup from Gary McGhee, who scored all 13 of his points in the second half to cut the deficit to two. Following a Providence turnover, Travon Woodall knocked-down a 3 from the wing, putting the Panthers up one at 77-76 with 35 seconds left. Providence's Gerard Coleman was the off the mark on a three of his own, and McGhee and Woodall converted on free throws down the stretch to clinch the road win for the Panthers.
West Virginia (9-4, 1-2 BIG EAST) also notched a road win, beating DePaul (6-9, 0-3 BIG EAST) 67-65. It was the first conference win this season for the Mountaineers, who were led by Casey Mitchell's 18 points. WVU had a 14-point lead with about 10 minutes to go, but DePaul came back to have a shot to win at the end. DePaul's Jeremiah Kelly drilled a 3-pointer with 1:30 left to tie the game at 63. Darryl Bryant answered with a 3-point play for West Virginia to stake the Mountaineers to a three-point lead, but Brandon Young brought DPU within one after a pair of free throws with 49.9 seconds left. DePaul got a stop, but Young missed a jumper from the wing to give West Virginia the win.
Louisville is the last team to begin BIG EAST play as the Cardinals embark on their 18-game league slate tonight against Seton Hall at the KFC Yum! Center at 7 p.m. ET on ESPNU. Seton Hall coach Kevin Willard will find a familiar face on the opposite bench -- his father, Ralph Willard, is Louisville's director of basketball operations and a former assistant with the Cardinals.
Also on Wednesday, Marquette takes to the road for the first time in BIG EAST play as the Golden Eagles visit Rutgers at 7:30 p.m. ET on Marquette has a 4-1 series lead against the Scarlet Knights, who are looking for their first BIG EAST win of the season.